KEARNEY — It was a Christmas Eve that the McDonald family of Kearney won’t soon forget.
Earlier in the day the Jessica McDonald and her children were walking their new dog Christmas Eve morning at Cottonmill Lake in unseasonably warm temperatures when the mixed-breed dog broke free, went out on the ice to chech out the geese and fell through.
The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department’s Dive and Rescue Team recovered the dog that had fallen through ice Tuesday, according to Kearney Police Department Sgt. Greg Benson. Unfortunately, the dog died after being pulled from Cottonmill Lake.
And then, later that evening a group of emergency, law enforcement and fire department personnel presented a black Labrador puppy to the McDonalds.
According to KVFD Chief Jim Tacha, KVFD member Bobby Trujillo and his wife Melanie were on their way to Superior to pick up their own Labrador puppy for Christmas.
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Trujillo explained the situation from earlier in the day to Tyler and Chiane Marr of Superior. Tacha said Trujillo asked Chiane about the availability of a second puppy and how much it would cost.
Chianne asked about the kids’ ages and said, “I’ll donate it.” Obviously, the Marrs are dog lovers and were willing to brighten a Kearney family’s Christmas.
Tacha said that he had checked with Jessica McDonald to make sure it was OK to deliver a puppy to the house.
So, when KVFD, KPD and CHI Health Good Samaritan paramedics and some spouses showed up to the McDonalds’ house Tuesday night with a firetruck’s lights on, the children had no idea about the Christmas surprise that awaited them.
What a great way to end the day.
Earlier at Cottonmill Lake the McDonalds watched from the road as KPD, CHI Health Good Samaritan paramedics and KVFD attempted to resuscitate the dog at about 11:30 a.m.
“(It happened) right on Christmas Eve. It couldn’t be a worse time,” Benson said. “I mean it’s never a good time to lose a dog, but my goodness.”
Benson said McDonald and her children were walking the dog, which they had purchased from the Kearney Area Animal Shelter. The dog was on a leash but escaped from one of the children’s hands when the dog heard geese honking as they sat on the ice.
“And the dog took out on the ice, and fell through the ice and into the water,” Benson said.
The family unsuccessfully tried calling the dog back to shore.
“It’s my understanding that the dog at one point did try to get back out but it couldn’t get back up onto the ice,” Benson said.
Benson was told that one of McDonald’s children tried to go on the ice and rescue the dog. “But then a passerby stopped and said, ‘Hey, get back. Get back off of the ice,’” he said.
About 10 minutes later at 11:13 a.m., the family called 911 to rescue the dog.
When KPD arrived seven minutes later, Benson said they determined it was too dangerous to rescue the dog themselves. They called KVFD Dive and Rescue to retrieve the dog, which was still swimming in the water at the time.
As two rescuers slid onto the ice, Benson said the dog went under the water. Rescuers got the dog to shore and tried to resuscitate it.
Benson said he and other officers were moved by the situation.
“We just sat here for awhile just thinking what else could we have done,” he said. “It’s heart-wrenching, and then to have to go up there and tell the news to the family.”
Benson said he doesn’t know what more could have been done to save the dog.
“I guess I’m just thankful that there was no human life lost,” he said.